As Coronavirus spreads worldwide, our deep interconnection has become more apparent than ever before. Although many people like to think that their effects on others are limited and that we are divided by borders, we still share the same air and the same Earth. According to yogic philosophy, we also share the same universal soul, and the boundaries between our bodies and the “outside” world are much thinner than we think. It is time that we all raise our awareness of the importance of protecting all living beings, and the first step on this journey is following a vegetarian diet.
The Interconnected Nature of the World
In this world, we are all deeply interconnected. We share the same air, the same land, the same water, and the same energy around us. The interconnection of countries has become especially clear as air travel connects long distances that were previously inaccessible. In the modern-day, you can physically reach a location on the opposite side of the world in less than 24 hours and you can send a message from one pole to another in less than a second!
The so-called “borders” that divide us are nothing but imaginary lines drawn in the sand created by our governments and nations to create the illusion of division. But when you cross the border from India to Nepal or from the United States to Canada, the boundaries are actually grayer than they seem. There are of course some changes in language, culture, landscape, and food, but over time there has been constant communication and exchange between countries and individuals. Although people are still blocked from crossing these borders, for a bird or bug to fly across it doesn’t take any kind of special visa or permission that we humans require.
Although we often see ourselves as separate individuals and separate societies, the boundaries between us are much thinner than they seem. Exchange of ideas, thoughts, and feelings has been constant throughout the existence of life. When someone dies in the rural farms of India, the butterfly effect of this is felt all the way into America through a deep chain of connections.
An in-depth study was done by Microsoft researchers in which they checked over 30 billion electronic messages showed that we are no more than 6-degrees of separation from other people all around the world. So, by moving through your own chain of social connections, each person in the world is only 6 handshakes away from meeting the President of the United States! We are deeply linked in chains of interconnection with each other and the actions of each of us are not as individually confined as they often seem.
Yoga and the Boundaries of the Self
According to yoga philosophy as written in the Upanishads, each human body consists of 5 Koshas, or sheaths. These sheaths can be understood as layers of an onion or like the various parts of a Russian nesting doll. But these sheaths of the self are not clearly separated and are deeply interconnected as well. The sheaths move from the outermost sheath of the Annamaya Kosha, which is the physical body, all the way to the innermost sheath of the Anandamaya Kosha, which is the sheath of inner bliss, love, and joy.
Even at the layer of the physical body, this division between the body and the outside world is not clearly defined in yogic philosophy. The basic premise of the Advaita Vedanta, the non-dual school of Indian philosophy, is that the atman, or the true self, is the same as Brahman, or the highest reality of the universe. So, essentially the boundary between the individual soul and the supreme soul is not as clear cut as we often think either.
Yoga, Ahimsa, and the Vegetarian Diet
Another basic piece of yogic philosophy is the concept of ahimsa or non-violence. Ahimsa is the ethical principle of not causing harm to any living beings on Earth. In yogic philosophy, it is believed that all animals contain an individual soul and that their soul is also not separate from the supreme soul. So, by harming other living creatures, we are also harming ourselves because of this deep interconnection.
Not only should we respect and care for all animals, but this is also extended to all living beings including trees and other life forms on Earth. In every action and breath that we take, it is our responsibility to take care not to harm any living being. One of the best ways to care for living beings is to eat a vegetarian diet. The vegetarian diet is the most non-violent diet because it promotes and cares for the life of all animals and attempts to minimize harm towards the Earth in any way possible.
Coronavirus and the Vegetarian Diet
As Coronavirus spreads around the planet, now more than ever we have become aware of our deeply interconnected nature. It is commonly thought that the virus started in a wet market in China where it ultimately jumped from animal to humans. Our lack of respect for the Earth and animals has created this environment for the virus to jump from animals to humans and ultimately spread worldwide.
When speaking about Coronavirus, Jane Goodall, a famous primatologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace said, “It’s mistreatment of animals and exactly where the next pandemic might come from, if we don’t pay attention to our behavior…I pray that we will this time take heed of the message that we’re being given, because this pandemic has been predicted for many, many, many years.”
Thankfully, since the spread of Coronavirus, China has now instilled some bans on the consumption of wildlife, but there is still a long way to go. Hopefully the next steps will be to create a ban entirely on wet markets, stop the usage of animal parts for medicine, continuing to fight animal trafficking, and hopefully shifting to a vegetarian diet worldwide. If animals continue to be eaten and sold in close contact through trafficking and other markets, it will encourage the spread of viruses like coronavirus in the future. It is our responsibility as interconnected citizens of planet Earth to start taking steps to protect each other and the living beings that connect us.
Every day we each choose how we impact the planet and others around us. But if enough people begin to make ethical choices and think in a new way, then businesses and governments will be forced to change as well. Not only does harm cause a ripple effect, but so does growth and positive change.
We have spread damage, illness, and pain around the world. Now it is time to spread around positivity, love, and care. Following a vegetarian diet is the first step on a long journey to change, but it starts with each of us making that single step for a wave of change to spread around the world.